Dale Jr. 3rd at Charlotte, Remains 2nd in Standings Finishes behind Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon Saturday night Jimmie Johnson continued his reign at Lowe's Motor Speedway, beating teammate Jeff Gordon to win Saturday night's UAW-GM Quality...
Dale Jr. 3rd at Charlotte, Remains 2nd in Standings
Finishes behind Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon Saturday night
Jimmie Johnson continued his reign at Lowe's Motor Speedway, beating teammate Jeff Gordon to win Saturday night's UAW-GM Quality 500 and claim the Charlotte sweep. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team, driving a Chevrolet suited in a special Major League Baseball World Series paint scheme, finished third. It is Dale Jr.'s sixth consecutive top-10 finish - a career-best streak - and his 12th top-three and 15th top-five this season. He led twice for eight laps, and improved on his previous best finish of fourth at LMS. The finish cut into Kurt Busch's point lead, but only by five points as the series leader avoided several incidents to finish fourth. With five races to go in the Chase for the Nextel Cup championship, Busch now holds a 24-point advantage over Dale Jr. Busch and Earnhardt remain the only drivers to record top-10 finishes in each of the five Chase races.
Starting 25th, Dale Jr. was forced to take evasive action early to dodge several big accidents, the first an eight-car crash on lap 1 which forced Junior to the apron. Dale Jr. kept the Bud car unscathed, and he proceeded to pick off positions in a rapid climb through the field. Dale Jr.'s jump into the top five on lap 46 was a permanent jump, as he raced among the leaders for the rest of the evening. Dale Jr. took his first of three leads on lap 125 with a sporty pass of Kasey Kahne coming off turn 4. Kahne proved to be the class of the field, but his wreck on lap 267 eliminated him from contention. A restart with 12 to go had Junior in fourth. He passed Joe Nemechek on lap 324 for third, and drove out the final 10 laps without incident.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"I'm pleased with this. We had a pretty good car - a car I thought was a second-place car to the 9 (Kahne) car. We tried a couple of things, but I didn't let (the team) free up the car enough. That kind of timid attitude didn't allow us to keep up with the race track, because the track tightened up a lot at the end. We had a real good pit stop at the end, and it got us a top-five, so it was a pretty good night. This kind of track is what we've struggled on, but it looks like we've improved."
On Kasey Kahne's dominance before his wreck:
He was so much faster than anybody else. If he hadn't had his problem, I'm assuming he would've gone to Victory Lane pretty easy. You saw when he was out of the race, everybody was back into it pretty quick. The 9 car was so fast that I almost pretended I was leading the race (while riding in second place). He was so far out in front, and when I tried to catch him to lead a lap, I would just burn my car up. So I decided to just chill out and run my own line."
On the tight points battle with Kurt Busch:
We've just got to keep finishing ahead of him, that's one thing. That's all you can do. Kurt brought his A-game; I brought my A-game. Each week I just try to focus on a top-10 finish. It's hard, and I try not to worry about where Kurt or Jeff or anybody else is on the track. You just get what you can get."
Best Radio Chatter:
Dale Jr. was all business Saturday night, at times acknowledging tough competitors and other times motivating his crew.
Under the fifth caution on lap 119, Dale Jr. was in second place and preparing to pit:
Dale Jr. (having just tried to chase the 9 car down): "If I had not run so hard, I could've probably taken better care of (my car)."
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "The boys are gonna get you five points on pit road here, so we're gonna work on that ... just make sure you close up good to that 9, we're gonna get you five points."
After taking his first lead on lap 125:
Dale Jr.: "Man, this motor is riiiiight!"
Kahne retook the lead five laps later, and stretched his advantage to a straightaway over Dale Jr.
Dale Jr.: "Man, hat's off to Tommy (Baldwin, crew chief of the 9 car) and all them guys. They've gotta fast car."
Tony Jr. "Yeah, that's what I was telling you about earlier. They are bad to the bone, so just run your pace."
After a sub-par pit stop on lap 211:
Dale Jr.: "Come on now, your stops got to be perfect! You're professionals! Let's go. Let's get pumped up! Come on, get pumped up! Talk to me!"
Tony Eury Jr. (car chief): "Yeah, they're doing it."
Dale Jr.: "Get pumped up. Pump yourselves up. We got about 100 to go! (Long pause) I can't wait to get back to green. I can taste it. I can't wait to go!"
Under the eighth caution, a Performance Racing Network (PRN) producer buzzed in and asked Dale Jr. if he was available to give a quick interview:
PRN producer: "Dale Jr, this is PRN. Can you talk?"
Dale Jr.: "All day, every day."
After the interview:
Dale Jr.: "Aight, y'all take 'er easy."
Under the ninth caution on lap 267:
Dale Jr.: "Y'all hear me? ... Y'all hear me? ... (long pause) Y'all hear me?"
Tony Jr.: "Yeah, we hear you. Whatcha need?"
Dale Jr.: "My batter... My bat... My...
Tony Jr.: "I hear ya Dale Jr., sounds like your battery is dead, so don't talk too much. Just put your hand out the window if you can hear us."
(Dale Jr. was unable to communicate with the team until their final pit stop on lap 313, when a new radio was dropped into the car and installed by Dale Jr, under the yellow flag conditions.)